8 November 2016
South Korean prosecutors are investigating allegations that Samsung gave donations to the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of President Park Geun-hye and was closely connected to Ms Park’s father, then-president Park Chung-hee. Choi’s father led a Christian cult called the Church of Eternal Life and reportedly was a private mentor for Park.
Samsung is alleged to have given $3 million to Choi through a company called Widec Sports in Germany, to support Choi’s daughter’s equestrian training. Samsung Electronics’ office in Seoul was raided on Tuesday.
Prosecutors also raided the offices of the Korea Equestrian Federation and the Korea Horse Affairs Association. Samsung Electronics President for corporate relations, Park Sang-jin, is the chairman of the Korea Equestrian Federation.
Ms Choi manipulated government affairs and pushed dozens of the country’s biggest conglomerates to donate $68m of dollars to two foundations that she controlled. She is also alleged to have meddled in state affairs and wielded influence in the sports and cultural communities. She is alleged to have secured her daughter a place at a prestigious university by causing changes to admission criteria. The head of prestigious Ewha Womans University stepped down on Wednesday for facilitating admission of Ms Choi’s daughter.
Ms Choi was arrested on 3 November and charged with fraud and abuse of power.
Tens of thousands of South Koreans protested on Saturday in Seoul against President Park, calling on her to resign for allowing an unelected person to meddle in government affairs. Some 17,600 police officers were deployed to watch over the crowd.
President Park sacked eight aides and nominated three new top cabinet officials, including the prime minister, to defuse the crisis. Park’s choice for prime minister, Kim Byong-joon, told a news conference that he thinks it is possible to have Park investigated, but any investigation of the head of state must be carefully handled. If her choice for prime minister, is rejected and she will be forced to name someone chosen by the opposition. It would limit her authority and her ability to govern.
In her address Friday, Park said “The prosecutor’s office should not be distracted. They should try to uncover the truth. I will do my best to clarify this case, and I have already instructed my secretaries to actively cooperate with the investigation. If it is necessary, I will accept being investigated by the prosecutors’ office, or even a special prosecutor’s investigation.”
Presidential corruption is nothing new to Korea. All the three past presidents were investigated for bribery and corruption.
What did President Park gain from her friendship with a dubious person like Choi? Why did she allow Choi to manipulate her for so long? In answer to this Park said Choi helped her “when I had difficulties” in the past.
9 November 2016
President Park Geun-hye knew well that her government will collapse and that may lead to her impeachment. She realised that her appointment of a new prime minister from outside her conservative Saenuri Party and reshuffling her secretaries and some cabinet members would not pacify the angry public which demanded her resignation.
She decided to make a major political concession. She met up with Chung Sye-kyun, the speaker of the National Assembly, on Tuesday and told him that she would accept a prime minister chosen by the opposition-controlled legislature and that she would let the new prime minister control the cabinet.
Her agreement with the Speaker shows how badly she was weakened by the scandal involving her close friend, Choi Soon-Sil, who was arrested on charges of fraud and abuse of power.
Ms Park is not as much corrupt as the past presidents of Korea. Her only fault was to let herself be manipulated by a cunning friend who leveraged her friendship by amassing wealth.
Two other of her aids also have been taken into custody. The president’s former senior advisor for policy, Ahn Jong-beom, is in custody for abuse of power and attempted extortion. Private secretary Jeong Ho-seong was arrested late Thursday and is suspected of leaking confidential documents to Choi, the key figure at the centre of the scandal.